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Abstract: I shall disclose the answer to the title question straight away, and the answer is “NO, it would not”. If it turned out that we really are neurobi- ologically determined beings, this result would not necessitate any change in our idea of humanity – it would not affect the idea that we are free and responsible human beings. Or at any rate, it would not do so under certain conditions of which I am sure that, as a matter of fact, they are satisfied. But let us first ask the question, “Whence the opposite con- viction, according to which it would prove a disaster for our self-image and the idea that we are free and responsible beings if it emerged that everything we do, think or feel is completely determined by biological factors?”
Dennett, Daniel Clement (2003). Freedom Evolves. Viking. (Google)
Abstract: Daniel C. Dennett is a brilliant polemicist, famous for challenging unexamined orthodoxies. Over the last thirty years, he has played a major role in expanding our understanding of consciousness, developmental psychology, and evolutionary theory. And with such groundbreaking, critically acclaimed books as Consciousness Explained and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist), he has reached a huge general and professional audience. In this new book, Dennett shows that evolution is the key to resolving the ancient problems of moral and political freedom. Like the planet's atmosphere on which life depends, the conditions on which our freedom depends had to evolve, and like the atmosphere, they continue to evolve-and could be extinguished. According to Dennett, biology provides the perspective from which we can distinguish the varieties of freedom that matter. Throughout the history of life on this planet, an interacting web and internal and external conditions have provided the frameworks for the design of agents that are more free than their parts-from the unwitting gropings of the simplest life forms to the more informed activities of animals to the moral dilemmas that confront human beings living in societies. As in his previous books, Dennett weaves a richly detailed narrative enlivened by analogies as entertaining as they are challenging. Here is the story of how we came to be different from all other creatures, how our early ancestors mindlessly created human culture, and then, how culture gave us our minds, our visions, our moral problems-in a nutshell, our freedom
Abstract: This article is my contribution to an author-meets-critics session on Daniel Dennett’s Freedom Evolves (Viking, 2003) at the 2004 meetings of the American Philosophical Association – Pacific Division. Dennett criticizes a view I defend in Autonomous Agents (Oxford University Press, 1995) about the importance of agents’ histories for autonomy, freedom, and moral responsibility and defends a competing view. Our disagreement on this issue is the major focus of this article. Additional topics are manipulation, avoidance, and avoidability
Abstract: _Freedom Evolves _is an ambitious book. The aim is to show that free will is compatible with what physics, biology and the neurosciences tell us about the way we function and that, moreover, these sciences can help us clarify and vindicate the most important aspects of the common-sense conception of free will, those aspects that play a fundamental role in the way we live our lives and in the way we organize our society
Abstract: Nicholas Maxwell takes on the ambitious project of explaining, both epistemologically and metaphysically, the physical universe and human existence within it. His vision is appealing; he unites the physical and the personal by means of the concepts of aim and value, which he sees as the keys to explaining traditional physical puzzles. Given the current popularity of theories of goal-oriented dynamical systems in biology and cognitive science, this approach is timely. But a large vision requires firm and nuanced arguments to support it. Here Maxwell's work is weakest; his arguments for contingent mind-body identity and for free will, on which his larger theory depends, are inadequate. The book is valuable both for its comprehensive view of the human condition and its mysteries, and for its demonstration of the difficulties in making such a view coherent
Abstract: First, unlike a good many philosophical puzzles that absorb the efforts of professional philosophers, the web of problems surrounding free will does not take philosophical training to appreciate. It is a ubiquitously accessible problem discussed at length by novelists, poets, musicians, scientists, religious believers, atheists, and more than a few undergraduates in late- night discussions. At least in the Western philosophical tradition it is also a very old problem: versions of it can be found at least as far back as the Stoics and the Epicureans, and arguably in Aristotle. Taken as a whole, these considerations suggest that at least a significant source of puzzles about free will can be found in aspects of our thinking that are available to us at easily accessible levels of reflection. Second, over the past 30 years or so, the philosophical arsenal of incompatibilists